If you're a Florida surfer, you may already be familiar with the blacktip shark (Carcharhinus limbatus), since the species reportedly inflicts 16 percent of the shark bites on surfing enthusiasts in your state. Blacktips also have chomped on humans along other parts of the Atlantic and Gulf coasts of the United States, and off the waters of South Africa and the Caribbean.
If there's an upside to this, it's that the species, which prefers depths of around 10 feet, only averages about 5 feet (1.5 meters) in length and just 40 pounds (18 kilograms) in weight, and seldom inflicts anything more than a minor wound [source: Florida Museum of Natural History]. There've been 42 documented attacks on humans by blacktip sharks, but just one resulted in an unprovoked fatality [source: International Shark Attack File].
Though blacktips usually prefer saltwater, they also are often seen near shore around river mouths, bays, mangrove swamps and in other estuaries. They get their name from the distinctive black markings on the tips of their fins. They have stout bodies with a moderately long, pointed snouts and high, pointed first dorsal fins. They're dark gray-blue or brown on their upper bodies, with white underbellies and a distinctive white band across their flanks. Blacktips feed primarily on small schooling fishes like herring and sardines, but they also eat bigger bony fish like catfish and grouper and have been known to make a meal out of some types of small sharks, stingrays, crustaceans and squids.
We'd be remiss if we didn't add that like many other shark species, blacktips have more to fear from humans than the other way around. They're caught by fishermen, who sell their meat for human consumption or to be used as fish meal to feed animals. Their fins are also sold in Asian markets for making soup. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) classifies blacktips as "near threatened" around the world and "vulnerable" in the northwest Atlantic region [source: Florida Museum of Natural History].